Heat relief comes on the rocks

IN MY GLASS

August 09, 2006|By ROB KASPER

Of all the ways to seek relief from the heat, I favor the practice of letting ice cubes swim in a cocktail.

As the sun sets on a scorcher, I often find myself in the company of gin. My frequent companion on sticky August evenings is the gin rickey, a mollifying mixture of gin, lime, club soda and ice cubes. It is a tart tonic that takes the edge off what the poet Rudyard Kipling might call Maryland's bloody clime.

Recently I explored additional remedies, ones that relied on ice cubes and booze. I consulted with some of Baltimore's bartenders who offered a variety of icy twists on the summer cocktail.

John F. Klaus of the Prime Rib suggested "the Piney," a drink he makes by soaking slices of fresh pineapple in vodka then serving it, on ice, in a chilled wineglass.

Nathan Beveridge, the former owner of the Midtown Yacht Club who has worked as bartender at several Baltimore restaurants, told me he livens up classic cocktails by dropping pieces of sun-dried fruit in them. Since sun-dried fruit does not have water in it, it delivers flavor without diluting the drink, Beveridge said.

One scalding Friday, I took a seat in the dark, cool comfort of the bar at Ruth's Chris Steak House at the Pier V Hotel on Eastern Avenue and watched Dave Nanovic put together a version of a Brazilian cocktail called caipirinha.

A new guidebook to cocktails, The Ultimate Bar Book by Mittie Hellmich, said this drink is traditionally made with cachaca, a "fiery Brazilian spirit with the reputation of actually powering up a Ford Fairlane." Nanovic substituted vodka for the Brazilian alternative fuel.

One version of the drink calls for muddling slices of limes in the bottom of an old-fashioned glass, but Nanovic used a blender to pulverize a whole, peeled lime. "The hardest part of making this drink is peeling the lime," he told me. "You have to use a real lime, not bottled lime juice."

The lime was joined in the blender by a healthy shot of vodka, a half-cup of sugar and a mountain of ice cubes. After a few noisy minutes of blender activity, an icy, light green mixture sat in front of me in a large pint glass, sporting a straw. I ignored the straw and sipped the frigid mixture. It was flavorful, refreshing. I was worried that the sugar would overpower the drink, but instead the tartness of the lime reigned supreme, producing a hot-weather slushie for grown-ups.

Later I bounced up the steps to the second-floor bar at the Brass Elephant and watched Alex Bustamante shake, rattle and roll as he whipped up an orange mojito and a bikini martini.

The mojito is, as author Hellmich put it, Havana, Cuba's answer to the mint julep. A mixture of mint leaves, sugar, lime juice, rum and club soda, it can easily be too sweet. This one was not. Bustamante dropped mint leaves and large slices of lime and orange into a glass. He squirted in a small dose of simple syrup, then worked on these ingredients with a muddler, a piece of wood that resembled a miniature baseball bat. Muddling, he explained, releases the oils in the mint leaves and fruit rinds.

Next came the rum. Bustamante used two types, 10 Cane Rum, which he described as the equivalent of small-batch bourbon, and Bacardi Limon, a citrus-flavored rum. Then he added the ice cubes, topped the glass with a metal cover and gave the concoction a thorough, professional shake. "You shake first, then add the soda, because you don't want to lose the effervescence of the soda," he said.

I sipped and tasted clean, citrus notes. I smiled. I chilled.

By the time I tasted the bikini martini - a smooth blend of coconut rum, vodka and pineapple juice, shaken with ice cubes - the summer's searing heat did not seem like such a nuisance. Bustamante said the cocktail has a coconut aroma, which is the same scent of the suntan oil often used by bikini-clad bathing beauties, hence the name of the drink. Sipping these cocktails and the mention of bikinis reminded me that there are benefits to a long, hot summer.

Alex Bustamante's Bikini Martini

Makes 1 serving

1 1/2 ounces coconut rum (Malibu or Captain Morgan Parrot Bay)

1 1/2 ounces vodka

1 tablespoon grenadine

1 ounce pineapple juice

ice

twist of lemon for garnish

Combine first 4 ingredients in a large glass. Add ice, cover and shake. Strain and pour into a martini glass. Garnish with twist of lemon.

Alex Bustamante's Orange Mojito

Makes 1 serving

6 to 10 mint leaves

1 slice of fresh orange

1/6 of a whole lime, sliced

2 tablespoons simple syrup (a blend of 1 part water and 2 parts sugar)

ice

4 ounces rum (mix of 10 Cane and Limon)

2 ounces chilled club soda

orange slice for garnish

Muddle the mint leaves, orange and lime slices and simple syrup in the bottom of highball glass. Add ice to top of glass. Add the rum. Cover and shake. Fill glass with chilled club soda. Garnish with slice of orange.

Dave Nanovic's Caipirinha

Makes 1 serving

1 whole lime, peeled

1/2 cup sugar

4 to 5 ounces vodka

ice

sugar for glass rim

lime slice for garnish

Place first 4 ingredients in a blender. Mix until slush is formed. Pour into a pint glass with rim rubbed in sugar. Garnish with lime slice.

Rob Kasper's Gin Rickey

Makes 1 serving

juice of 1 whole lime (reserve 2 pieces of rind)

ice

2 ounces gin

3 to 5 ounces chilled club soda

Pour lime juice and 1 rind into bottom of highball glass. Add ice and gin; fill with chilled club soda. Stir. Rub rim of glass with remaining lime rind.

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